By AARON MANAGHAN
TACOMA — Reeling after five straight losses dating back to the regular season, all indications pointed to a short trip to the West Central District III boys basketball tournament for Central Kitsap.
“Coming off a tough loss like we did in a game we thought we should have won, sometimes you can have a let down,” CK coach Tim Fryer said, referring to a 62-56 loss to Bethel to begin tourney play last week.
Facing the possibility of getting bounced from the postseason for the first time this year, CK (15-9) responded, opening the game on a 19-5 run en route to a 74-61 win against Puyallup (11-13) Friday at Foss High School. With backs against the wall, Fryer said the team had some extra motivation to keep the season going.
“It’s great,” he said of extending the season for his seniors. “My seniors are great people. They’ve very nice young men. I just hope we can stretch it out a few more for ‘em.”
Seeing how Puyallup’s seven-strong senior class responded made an impression CK junior Brandon Durham isn’t apt to soon forget.
“(Our seniors) were really happy,” Durham said. “I saw the seniors on the other team. You can tell which ones they were because they’re crying. So it was good to give (our seniors) another game.”
One of those seniors said the loss to Bethel is as close as CK wants to come to sharing the sentiment.
“At the beginning of the season, that’s all we said; ‘We want to make it to state,’” guard Andrew Shearer said. “Then to see it at Bethel almost slip through our fingers, it makes you want it even more. We weren’t going to lose this game. We knew we weren’t.”
Still, the win didn’t come easily against a scrappy Puyallup team that spent the bulk of the game pressuring CK’s offense.
After growing their lead to 28-10, the Vikings responded with a 15-4 run of their own to trim the Cougs’ lead to just 32-25 at the half.
“The boys put together a great first quarter or so,” Fryer said. “I’ve got to hand it to Puyallup. They’re a scrappy team. There’s no quit in ‘em.”
Turnovers helped Puyallup continue to close the gap, as the Vikings took the lead once at 36-35 and again 38-37 with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter. CK committed 26 turnovers in the game.
“We just need to play a little more team ball,” Fryer said. “Sometimes we get in those ruts where we don’t play very well. Luckily, we snapped out of it.”
CK regained the lead at 39-38 on a Durham offensive board and put-back, spurring a 16-3 run that would put the Cougars up for good.
“We needed to close one out, no matter who it was against,” Fryer said.
With CK missing out on the postseason last year, Durham, who led the team with 21 points and had several big blocks inside, said getting a district win was sweet.
“It was a good win,” Durham said. “To get a win in districts is big. As long as we get to state, I’m happy.”
Shearer echoed that sentiment, saying the win gave the Cougs a much needed boost of confidence.
“It’s just good to get a win,” he said. “We’ve got our confidence back. We all want to make it to state more than anything else in the world right now.”
In addition to Durham, Isaiah Thompson had a strong game with 19 points, also playing tough defense. Andrew Braun scored 11 and Caleb Brown chipped in nine.
CK got contributions across the roster however, much of which won’t show up in any box score.
“I thought Isaiah and Drew Shearer had great games,” Fryer said. “Matt Wain stepped up. And Caleb Brown has been playing great lately.
“This was a good win. It’s nice to see everyone get on the floor and do something.”
Central Kitsap took on Decatur last night in a loser-out game also at Foss High School. Results were unavailable at press time.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” Fryer said. “We’ve got Decatur and they’re very athletic. They’re one of the top teams in the state.”
But it’s a challenge CK is up for.
“It’s gonna be a crazy game,” Durham said.
If CK won, they’ll play the winner of North Kitsap-Gig Harbor at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Auburn High School.